Innovation, brainstorming reduce ER wait times

Emergency room wait times are often painfully long and a huge problem for hospitals' efficiency. For Mercy Health's Anderson Hospital in Cincinnati, three years ago, ER patients waited 40 minutes to be seen by a doctor. But now, the average wait time is only 12 minutes--a 70 percent decrease, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier.

How did the hospital do this? By speeding up treatment and changing the way it "sorted" patients, according to Michael Argus, M.D., Anderson's emergency department medical director.

Doctors now go to patients instead of patients being routed to doctors, without changing the order in which patients are seen. And a doctor, nurse and technician work together to diagnose patient care, according to the Courier. By not having to answer the same questions over and over, the whole process goes more quickly.

Certain steps remain the same--"[I]f you have bleeding, you get to go first," said Stephen Feagins, M.D., vice president of medical affairs at Anderson.

After a five-day brainstorming session, a team of five doctors and 35 staff members at the hospital decided on an approach called Kaizen, a Japanese term for "continuous improvement" with regard to the standardization of processes.

"This was the right tool for the job--an intense analysis of all the players," Feagins told the Courier.

As a result of this approach, the number of people who show up to the ED hoping for treatment and end up leaving declined from 2.1 percent to 03 percent. The average length of stay for admitted patients also dropped from 394 minutes to 292 minutes.

Startups have begun to brainstorm how to improve ER wait times, too. For example, 150 hospitals have reported shorter wait times and greater patient satisfaction scores since using Nashville-based InQuicker, which is like an OpenTable for emergency departments--one-click reservations.

To learn more:
- read the Cincinatti Business Courier article

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